Effect of larval swimming in the western North Pacific subtropical gyre on the recruitment success of the Japanese eel

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Abstract

The possible effect of directional larval swimming on the recruitment success of the Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica, was examined with a three-dimensional particle-tracking ocean circulation model using horizontal northwestward swimming and diel vertical migration (DVM). Four separate experiments included virtual larvae (v-larvae) movement from the spawning area over 290 days (total migration) and 160 days (stage A), from the STCC eddy region in 70 days (stage B), and from the origin of the Kuroshio in 60 days (stage C) to evaluate the effect of directional swimming and DVM compared to simple drifting. Passive or random swimming were not the most effective strategies for larvae dispersing from the spawning area because most v-larvae remained south of 20N without entering the Kuroshio. Northwestward swimming resulted in wider dispersion and a better chance of successful recruitment, with v-larvae becoming widely distributed in the STCC eddy zone, arriving at the east coast of the Philippines (stage A), escaping the STCC eddy area and reaching the Kuroshio (stage B), and crossing the Kuroshio into the East China Sea shelf (stage C). DVM slightly shortened the migration period due to faster shallow layer ocean currents during nighttime. The NEC transported non-swimming v-larvae westward to the Kuroshio and occasionally northward into the Subtropical Countercurrent (STCC) area where eddies transported v-larvae westward into the Kuroshio, but less than with swimming. Directional swimming increased recruitment success, northwestward swimming was more effective than other directions, and a slower swimming speed was still better than no/random swimming in sensitivity tests. The present study demonstrated a first view of the possibility that Japanese eel larvae might be able to use a strategy of single-direction swimming to increase arrival at their recruitment areas.

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Chang, Y. L. K., Miller, M. J., Tsukamoto, K., & Miyazawa, Y. (2018). Effect of larval swimming in the western North Pacific subtropical gyre on the recruitment success of the Japanese eel. PLoS ONE, 13(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208704

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